'As a traffic officer I've seen it all and there are 7 things drivers really shouldn't do'

Simon Wardle
Simon Wardle -Credit:No credit

Simon Wardle has seen the very worst of your driving. The traffic officer is no stranger to all manners of driving on the UK's motorways.

He and his colleagues at National Highways patrol our highways to ensure traffic is moving safely and smoothly/ They are also required to stop traffic when needed if there has been a crash or serious incident.

The official, who has seven years experience, explained: "People can get confused about the powers that we have. The only power we have is to stop traffic. We can use our radio if people are driving in a condition that is unsafe to other road users and notify the police."


"But we can't get involved ourselves. Unless it is a safety aspect, so for example, if they are driving and there are things bouncing around on their trailer, is there a chance it could fall off and cause an RTC? Yes, therefore, I will have the power to do something about it. I can put a block on behind me (close the lane) and put a signal for him to pull over."

Towing trailers in the fast lane

Under UK law, it is an offence to tow a trailer in the outside lane. However Simon still sees this happen regularly. He said: "This morning, a 4x4 towing a trailer in the outside lane, exceeding the 60mph speed limit. Well, the problem is, if you work for a company that requires a trailer, for example these telecom companies that have the reels of telecom cable on the back, so those short trailers."

"Who's responsibility is it? Ultimately, it is the driver's responsibility to ensure they are following the Road Traffic Act. But we see it so often. I see people with caravans bouncing down lane three or four at 70mph-plus, because they don't see anything wrong with it. It is the Road Traffic Act, we don't pick what we use to follow or not."

Huge amounts of abuse - including 'driver tizer'

Given traffic officers have a public-facing role, they can get abuse from members of the public. For their safety, they're equipped with body-worn cameras.

Simon said: "Not just us, but police, ambo, fire, be it the crews that fix potholes, barrier damage, deal with dead animals, debris, we all get mass amounts of abuse, both verbal and physical. Driver tizer is a bottle that HGV drivers pee in and then chuck it onto the side of the motorway for us to clean up.

Inside the Volvo XC90
-Credit:No credit

There have been incidents where those have been chucked at - not me - but other traffic officers as well. I get the frustration, especially with HGVs because they are on a time. But, ultimately, our responsibility is safety. If we can't respond without putting a block on, we're going to put a block on."

Adjusting Sat Navs on slip roads

Simon Wardle said: "Be prepared, know where you are going. The major problem that we have is that you will see people stop, say on a slip road, in a totally inappropriate place, just to check their Sat Nav, or to check where they are going." Simon believed the issue could be down to a "generational gap", where technology is "a lot more easily understandable" to some than others. Legally, you can only stop on a hard shoulder if it is a medical or mechanical emergency.

Standing on the verge with dogs

If you've had an emergency breakdown on the hard shoulder and have a dog with you, Simon advises that you should leave your pet in the car in case it gets "spooked" by traffic and runs into the road. He said: "As harsh as it seems, please put your dog back in the car. That is for everybody's safety."

Driving whilst on a mobile phone

Simon Wardle said: "The usual one is a mobile phone. We see that a hell of a lot because we are on the road so much. We see people's habits, they don't think there is anything wrong with driving whilst holding a mobile phone because they are a good driver and they have been driving 40-plus years. Wrong." If you're caught driving whilst on your phone, you can get six penalty points on your license ad a £200 fine. Find out more here.

People driving without a license

This is something that Simon and traffic officers see regularly, he says. If caught, drivers can be penalised with fines and penalty points on their license.

HGVs stopping in emergency bays for 'tachograph breaks'

Simon Wardle said: "HGVs and tacho law. (It is) the most that I get, certainly on a stretch of motorway where there is no hard shoulder, so they are taking up a bay that is used for emergencies only, to have a taco break, a 45-minute tacho break. It is not an emergency, they clearly don't know tacho law. (It's) because they don't want that thing flashing at them to say 'you are 10 minutes outside whatever'."

That means lorry drivers are stopping off to take a break in emergency bays, so their breaks can be recorded on their tachographs (tachos). Tachographs are built into lorries and record a driver's driving time - there are rules in the UK stating drivers shouldn't drive for more than four hours and 30 minutes without having a 45-minute break. And you must not drive for more than nine hours in a day and 56 hours in a week. See more information here.

Simon added: "I get if you are sat in crawling traffic, that is eating away at your four-and-a-half. But a hard shoulder, or a bay, is not a safe place to take it. And if DVSA stop and the police, the police will ticket you."